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Trying to choose the hybrid that best fits your needs? Here's an expert's take

Deciding between a traditional and plug-in hybrid can be tricky, so we went right to the professionals.

Image: Shutterstock/nrqemi

FINDING THE RIGHT car for your lifestyle and budget can be a tricky process. We want to help streamline the search. As part of our Insights series, every week we’ll take a different car-buying question to the experts at the heart of the motor industry.

This week, we asked Wayne Barrett, Brand Manager at Toyota Long Mile, to break down the differences between traditional hybrids and their newer plug-in counterparts.

Here’s Wayne’s take on how the two compare…

First up, know the core differences

All hybrids rely on more than one form of energy to power the car. The way I explain it to customers is that a traditional hybrid uses two forms: the rechargeable battery (which regenerates as you brake and coast) and the fuel engine.

A plug-in, however uses three forms: the rechargeable battery, the engine and electric power from an external charger too.

shutterstock_481602538 Source: Shutterstock/Subbotina Anna

They’re both cost effective

You’re going to end up saving money whichever type of hybrid you choose, because you’ll be buying less fuel. Of course, with a plug-in, you’ll save more, because you can travel up to 50km on a full electric charge with no fuel usage.

Then there are the grants and incentives. Plug-ins have a higher price-point, but there’s currently a €5,000 grant toward the purchase of one. Hybrids in general are eligible for a €1,500 VRT reduction. If you’re buying a car on a payment plan, you’ll also benefit from the low APR for hybrids, meaning you’ll probably end up paying less per month than you would with a conventional diesel car.

90182013_90182013 One of Ireland's first electric charging points, set up in Dublin city centre in 2010. Source: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

Plug-ins use less fuel, but only if you can charge them

The unfortunate truth is that there aren’t enough charging points in this country yet, so you can’t rely on being able to give your plug-in an electric boost once the charge runs out.

For short distances, a plug-in is a great option, but for longer journeys, the charging points simply aren’t there, so you’ll be back to relying on the regenerative battery and the fuel engine.

You’ve more style choices with a traditional hybrid

As a Toyota dealer, there have always been hybrids in the showroom, starting with the first Prius back in 1997. The hybrid Yaris was a gamechanger, though. Before, if you didn’t like the look of the Prius, you probably weren’t going to get a hybrid, but suddenly, there was more than one choice of style.

Now we have traditional hybrids across a whole range of models, but the Prius is the only model with a plug-in version.

shutterstock_661074004 Source: Shutterstock/Ignatiev Alexandr

If you’re trading up, start traditional

If you’re coming from a conventional petrol or diesel car, a plug-in hybrid is a big jump. I’d suggest getting used to a traditional hybrid first for a few years. You’ll also give the country’s infrastructure time to catch up with the needs of a plug-in or an EV.

In my eyes you really can’t go wrong with the traditional hybrids right now. They have low road tax, they’re cheap to run, there’s less strain on the engine than a conventional petrol/diesel car and – most importantly for cost-conscious drivers – their re-sale value is getting better and better.

More: 5 questions to ask when test-driving a new car, according to a motor expert

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